What happened: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists of Chinese origin spoke to Nature about the increasingly toxic environment on US college campuses and institutions as the government’s crackdown on foreign influence in research has reached a fever pitch. The scientists describe unfair treatment at the hands of government officials, including surprise visits from law enforcement. Additionally, an open letter recently published by MIT’s president Rafael Reif details how “faculty members, post-docs, research staff and students… feel unfairly scrutinized, stigmatized and on edge — because of their Chinese ethnicity alone.”
Why it’s important: While the National Institutes of Health (NIH) denies any racial bias in its investigations, evidence is mounting that it has been particularly focused on academics of Chinese origin. Among others, it has been involved in both MD Anderson’s firing of three “Asian” scientists and Emory University’s firing of two Chinese-American biomedical researchers since it began its initiative last August. MIT joins 10 other institutions, including the Committee of Concerned Scientists and Yale University, in raising concerns through an open letter, although it seems unlikely that the NIH will relent as long as the trade war rages on.